Sunday NBA Expert Picks
Hard Court Picks On Sunday
By Dan Favale
The Boston Celtics are coming off one of the most bizarre road trips in recent memory. They got beat bad by the Phoenix Suns, then followed that up with a win over the Golden State Warriors, which they then followed up with a bad loss to the Denver Nuggets, a solid team that’s nonetheless below .500.
Fortunately for them, they have a chance to get back on track against a truly terrible Chicago Bulls squad that offers no direction or spacing on the offensive end. With the Celtics close to full strength and playing in front of their home crowd, this pick isn’t even one of question.
The pick: Boston Celtics (-7.5)
The Indiana Pacers are good at home. We get it. But the Miami Heat have been on an absolute tear since Jan. 17. They are an NBA-best 21-4 during this time, with a top-six offensive rating and top-two defensive rating.
And to that point about the Pacers being good at home: The Heat are outscoring opponents by 3.3 points per 100 possessions in enemy territory during this recent stretch. The Pacers, by comparison, are a plus-1.8 points per 100 possessions at home during this same span.
It does help Indiana that Miami is playing the second night of a back-to-back on the road. That’s never a good sign. Goran Dragic also left Saturday night’s win with a left eye injury. But he did make the trip to Indiana, and even if he’s not ready to rock, the Heat have the depth and momentum necessary to keep this thing close.
The Pick: Miami Heat (+5.5)
Talk about a game you don’t really want to pick.
In keeping with our committment to pick every one of today’s games, though, we must roll with the Brooklyn Nets. They play hard every game, while the New York Knicks just don’t.
Sprinkle in the fact that the Knicks are working off a Saturday night road loss to the Detroit Pistons, and the stage is set for the Nets to pull off an upset over a New York squad that, frankly, isn’t much better than them in the first place.
The Pick: Brooklyn Nets (+1)
If you’re wondering why this line is tilted so heavily in the Houston Rockets’ favor, it’s because no one really expects LeBron James to play. He put up a triple-double in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Saturday night victory over the Orlando Magic, and he’s officially in rest-and-relaxation mode with the playoffs just around the corner.
With Kevin Love also out, we have no choice but to pick Houston. This line will free fall should LeBron decide to play, so keep an eye on it. Right now, though, the full-strength Rockets are the pick over the shorthanded Cavaliers.
The Pick: Houston Rockets (-7)
Both the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers are working off Saturday night games. The difference is the Suns won their matchup, and the Blazers did not.
Still, the Blazers are playing better basketball of late. In fact, they held a huge lead over the Washington Wizards on Saturday night; they just failed to maintain it.
Plus, with playoff seeding on the line for the Blazers, we have to expect they’ll come into Phoenix ready to play.
The Pick: Portland Trail Blazers (-1.5)
It’s really fun to see the Philadelphia 76ers try super hard game in and game out. They earn compliments from coaches and players around the league for their efforts. But, in the wake of Joel Embiid’s injury, the talent just isn’t there.
Which isn’t to suggest the Los Angeles Lakers are brimming with proven performers. But D’Angelo Russell is playing spunkier basketball this side of the All-Star break, and the Sixers expended a lot of energy during yesterday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
We can’t predict whether the Lakers will lay a deliberate egg in hopes of improving their draft-pick standing. But players, no matter the situation, don’t exist to lose. Head coach Luke Walton keeps his kiddies on a long leash, and they should be able to take care of business against an inferior, albeit scrappy, Sixers squad.
The Pick: Los Angeles Lakers (-3.5)